Newspapers to cut back on home delivery

December 17, 2008
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, WASHINGTON, December 17 – Two struggling newspapers, the Detroit News and Detroit Free Press, unveiled plans Tuesday to cut back on home delivery — the first dailies in a major US city to make such a drastic cost-cutting move.

The Detroit Media Partnership, which oversees the business operations of the two papers in the US auto capital, simultaneously unveiled plans to expand the online offerings on the websites of the papers, detnews.com and freep.com.

"The economics of the newspaper business demand change to survive," the Detroit Media Partnership said in announcing that the Detroit papers would be the first in a major US metropolitan market to curtail home delivery.

Beginning in March, home delivery of the News and the Free Press will end on Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Saturdays, it said.

The News will continue to be delivered on Thursdays and Fridays and the Free Press on Thursdays, Fridays and Sundays — the biggest days for advertisers.

The papers will still be available on newsstands throughout Michigan — six days a week for the News and seven days a week for the Free Press.

"Our decision to limit home delivery to three days a week reflects the reality that major newspaper markets are facing daunting economic challenges," Detroit Media Partnership chief executive Dave Hunke said in a statement.

"Advertising in this economy is down and costs are up. We can\’t live in the past. We need to shift resources to the digital side of our business, which readers and advertisers are clearly telling us is our future," he said.

Hunke said the changes will result in a reduction of the total workforce by about nine percent, or some 200 workers. He said the layoffs would not affect the newsrooms of the two papers.

"We know there will be many people unhappy with us," Paul Anger, vice president and editor of the Free Press, said of the curtailing of home delivery.

But, he told newspaper staffers: "If we don?t do this, we face a slow death. We are not making money right now."

The Detroit Media Partnership said a greater investment would be made in the newspapers\’ websites, resulting in "new digital offerings (and) greater use of audio and video technology."

The Free Press, which is owned by Gannett Corp., the largest US newspaper chain, is the 20th-largest daily in the United States with a daily circulation of 298,243, twice that on Sundays.

The News, which is owned by MediaNews Group and does not publish on Sundays, has a daily circulation of 178,280.

Newspapers across the United States have been suffering as circulation drops, print advertising revenue falls and more readers go online for news.

Last week, The Tribune Co., which owns the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Baltimore Sun and other papers, filed for bankruptcy protection, suffocating under nearly 13 billion dollars in debt.

According to the Audit Bureau of Circulations, circulation for 507 daily US newspapers fell 4.64 percent in the six months to September to 38.16 million copies from 40.02 million in the same period last year.

And print and online newspaper advertising revenue fell by 18.1 percent in the third quarter of the year, according to the Newspaper Association of America, the sixth quarter in a row of decline.

Overall online ad spending, while increasing, is forecast to grow by only 8.9 percent in 2009, according to eMarketer, and no major newspaper has reached a point yet where online revenue accounts for even 15 percent of total revenue.

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